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“Fallout”: Giving Increasing Hope for the Future of Video Game Adaptations

Charlie Gattman
The TV show “Fallout,” based on the Fallout game franchise owned by Bethesda, was released on Amazon Prime on April 10, 2024 with one season and eight episodes. The show stars Ella Purnell, Aaron Moten, and Walton Goggins as its three protagonists.

“Fallout” is rated TV-MA. This show may not be suitable for all audiences.

As a longtime fan of the Fallout games, I was excited when I first heard about the game being adapted into a show on Amazon Prime, but I was also worried about the “video game adaptation curse” and whether or not the show would deliver what Fallout fans want. After finishing the show, I can confidently say that it is everything I hoped for, and the 8.6/10 rating of the show on IMDb suggests that other fans of the franchise feel the same way.

Fallout, a game franchise owned by Bethesda, is set in a post-apocalyptic world that is permanently stuck in the Cold War era. The protagonist of each game wanders the desolate wasteland of the United States, defending themselves against ghouls, deathclaws, raiders, and any other horrors the wasteland throws their way.

Amazon Prime’s televised version of “Fallout,” created by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and starring Ella Purnell as Lucy MacLean, Aaron Moten as Maximus, and Walton Goggins as the Ghoul, is an eight-episode one-to-one recreation of the style of the games, from the biggest concepts to the smallest details. The show isn’t a retelling of any specific game, either — it’s a unique story within the Fallout universe.

The story follows three protagonists in a California wasteland. Lucy MacLean is a “vault-dweller” from Vault 33 who finds herself on a mission to the surface, and she has to learn how to navigate the wasteland and keep herself alive after living her entire life underground. Maximus was rescued by a faction called the Brotherhood of Steel as a young boy and has been living amongst their ranks as a soldier, and is now being sent to find and bring back a man who holds an unknown item with the possibility to destroy or save the world. Last but not least is “The Ghoul,” who is seeking the same bounty as Maximus, but is much more willing to get rid of anything in his way to obtain it — including the other two protagonists, if he deems it necessary.

Not only is this show great for longtime fans of the franchise, it also introduces new viewers to the world of Fallout almost perfectly, catching new viewers up to the lore within the first episode and making the rest of the show’s story easy to follow.

“Fallout” doesn’t just tell a new story in the universe of the games, it provides new information on what happened in the months leading up to Oct. 23, 2077, the date that the first nuclear bombs dropped in the United States, as well as why those bombs might have been dropped in the first place. The show also gives new insight into Vault-Tec, the company that created at least 122 vaults that are littered across the country, hinting that the money-hungry company might have had an even bigger role in the apocalypse than what was previously suggested in the games.

Before the “Fallout” show, the beginning segment of Fallout 4 (released in November 2015) was the first and only time players were able to see what life was like before the bombs fell. Fallout 4 only shows the minutes leading up to the bombs dropping as the player (the “Sole Survivor”) runs for shelter in Vault 111, making the show the first time this part of the Fallout timeline has been explored.

While I was watching each of the characters wandering through the wasteland and walking past dilapidated buildings, ruined cars with skeletons still inside, and other remnants of a time long since passed, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how everything looked identical to the games. I felt like I was actually playing Fallout instead of watching a show about it.

Everything from the set design, to the music, to the overall atmosphere was perfect. The show had me hooked right from the very beginning as soon as Nat King Cole’s song “Orange Colored Sky,” a staple song on the radio in the games, started playing. Each main character has their own style of music that plays while they’re on screen: Lucy’s is the classic soundtrack of ‘50s and ‘60s songs that is used in the games (with the most iconic song being “I Don’t Want to Set the World On Fire” by the Ink Spots), Maximus has Johnny Cash and other similar artists, and the Ghoul’s music feels like it comes straight out of an old Western movie.

Another aspect of the Fallout games that this show nails perfectly is the violence — that is, there’s a lot of it, and the show doesn’t shy away from showing gore. If you’re uncomfortable with violence and injury, it might be best to sit this show out.

However, all of these details that make the show incredibly accurate to the source material won’t just be enjoyable if you’ve only played the games. While it’s certainly nostalgic for older fans, the worldbuilding, sets, and atmosphere don’t rely on nostalgia-baiting to be great. Even without prior experience with Fallout, every single one of these aspects will be fantastic to new fans and casual viewers, easily immersing you in the characters’ world and stories.

The show deals with betrayal that the main characters have to grapple with, both from loved ones and from themselves. The betrayal that the three protagonists experience from within themselves is drawn out over the course of the entire show as they are forced to let go of their old values because of the life they live in the wasteland. The betrayal they face from the people they love is sudden and jarring, as they come to horrible realizations that they might not have had the best intentions.

The latter half of the show dives deep into some dangers that our own world faces, ones that have been essential to the entire overarching plot of the Fallout games for decades. “Fallout” uses a mix of the Cold War setting, McCarthyism in the United States, and the current-day problems of late-stage capitalism, mainly corporate greed and increasing wealth gaps, in order to prompt viewers to ask some uncomfortable questions: what happens when corporate greed is mixed with the depletion of our world’s resources and the stockpiling of nuclear weaponry? Could the companies with the technology meant to save us lead to our downfall, and is it possible that our world could be on the same path towards destruction as the world of Fallout?

In my opinion, the “Fallout” show does an excellent job of displaying interesting and well-written characters, prompting questions about the flaws of the United States’ past and present and how they could have been avoided, while expanding on the intricate world in the games. Whether you’re a fan of Fallout or not, I would highly recommend checking this show out.


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    Otto WildMay 3, 2024 at 11:14 am

    Two thumbs up, Charlie. As a fan of the video game I was very excited to see the show. I’m half way through and loving every minute of it.